Time and tide wait for no one. Neither does the Salt Spring ferry.
When you spend a lot of time on the islands off the coast of British Columbia, you learn to move to the rhythm of the ferry system. When I first started to ride the SS ferry, I used to be in a panic about not being on time or there being so many cars waiting that I would not be able to get onto the ferry.
The roads on Salt Spring twist and turn, there are double and triple curves. The roads rise and fall. There are places where you can legally travel 80ks and hour but a lot of the time the speed limit is 40k or 30k. There are people on bicycles, walking, hitchhiking. In summer, where the road runs along St. Mary Lake, there are parked cars, groups of young people in bathing suits, little kids carrying inflatables. In fall and winter there are still parked cars but those are from adults who are out fly fishing. Driveways are hidden by curves, trees, blackberry thickets.
None of this makes speeding reasonable. Trying to boot it in order to catch a ferry will likely end in disaster.
Today, I realized how much I’ve adjusted. After two days of splitting stove wood and I did something last night, lulled by music and the warmth of a wood fire, that I haven’t done in decades. I fell asleep on the living room couch. This morning, I left early for the ferry. There was time to admire the beauty of St. Mary Lake’s far shore with its brightly colored trees. Flaming red maples appeared at the edges of yards and, in the fields, there were sheep grazing. In the Fulford valley, the vineyards were turning from green to pale yellow. Roadside stands were piled with bags of organic apples. Each stand had a box in which to leave payment.
When I reached the bottom of the bay, I could see the ferry off in the distance. Ferries, I’ve learned, don’t move very fast. I would reach the embarkation parking lot long before the ferry docked.
I feel like an old pro now. When the parking lot is full, the cars park along the road. At first I used to think that if I didn’t get into the parking lot, I’d be left behind. Now, I know just how far along the road you can be and still get on the ferry. Today, the parking lot wasn’t even half-full. The summer tourists are gone so only locals are travelling back and forth.
There was time to get a cappuccino from the Morningside Organic Bakery café and bookstore. Fulford Harbour is funky and the Morningside is the funkiest of the funky. It’s made of driftwood and concrete, it serves handcrafted sandwiches, soups, salads, noodles, superfood, raw food, smoothies, shakes, bread, pastries, cookies, chai, premium coffees and teas. Its homemade bread is wood fired. It buys its produce from local organic farmers. It also does double duty as a bookstore. The walls have shelves displaying books on everything from Buddhism to animal rights.
Manon made me the cappuccino. I bought a package of gluten free cookies to go with it. We chatted. There was no rush. The ferry wasn’t going to sprout wings.
When I came out, the ferry was just docking. I took some photos, settled into my car.
The foot passengers and then the motorcyclists came off. After that, the cars. The gate closed, then opened. We rumbled on. No deckhands waving us close together so they can get as many cars as possible onto the ferry. No tourists climbing up the stairs to sit on the roofs of the side deck cabins so they can sight-see. We’re the locals. We’ve made this trip so often that we sit in our vehicles and read or nap. If it’s cold, we go into the cabins and find a seat. It’s not that cold yet. That will come later in the year when there’s ice on the fresh water ponds and rime on the trees.
It wasn’t so long ago that this was all exotic. Now, it’s all part of a rhythm, like an old song, the weaving drive, the slowing down through Ganges, the speeding up as the houses thin out, the roadside signs for free range eggs, apples, vegetables, flowers, the slipping into place to wait for the signal to board, the rumbling of the motor and the blast of the ferry whistle as we pull away from the dock.